Sewing a Skjold (Viking) Hood

20180621_123037As a Viking reenactor, one of my challenges is recreating garments worn centuries ago, with no instructions on how they are put together. I read through several sets of instructions for how to make a reproduction of the hood found in Skjold Harbor. After several tries, I now understand how the squares and rectangles work together. I used this pattern to construct my  Pronoun Hood.

Explaining how to assemble this hood requires both color-coded diagrams and photographs of the assembly process. The photo on the right shows my completed hood.

The skjold hood pattern is deceptively simple: two rectangles (1-2 and 3-4) form the hood and sides, and the front and back panels are squares half the size of the rectangles (5 and 6).

RedoSquares

I have colored each section’s edges to explain which edges should be sewn together. Black edges indicate the outer seams of the garment, and the dashed black lines show where the fabric folds.

 

HoodHead

The squares for my hood are one foot by one foot. I have made many more hoods since I made these diagrams, and I have found that a Medium sized head needs 13×13″ squares and a Large sized head needs 15×15″. A child’s hood is 11×11″.

 

HoodLayoutIsoThe hood is tricky to assemble because the edges align in an odd fashion.

First, join the two purple edges of (2) and (3) together to form a very long rectangle. Another way to make this hood from a piece of fabric one foot wide and six feet long, removing the need for the purple seam. The purple edge can be a fold or a seam, and sits over the top of the head.

RedPurple

 

Next, join the two red edges of (2) and (3) together. This seam sits over the back of the head. The black edges of (2) and (3) are the open front of the hood.

 

BrownOrange

Starting at the end of the red seam, pin  and sew square (6) to the back to the hood. You will need to align the orange edges of (1) and (6) as well as the  brown edges of (4) and (6). Don’t start at one of the corners with a black edge, because the fabric can slip and misalign the entire hood.

Green

 

The next step is the hardest. Carefully align the front of the hood to sew the front seams. I like to pin the open front of the hood (the black lines of (2) and (3) closed so they align. This ensures the front square (5) will align with the back square (6).

Finally, sew the blue edge of (5) to the blue edge of (1). Now you only need to roll the seam around the open front of the hood and its outer edge.

HoodWorn

It looks strange, doesn’t it? When flat, the hood will look like this. I have drawn a person in the hood so you can see how it sits. The dashed lines indicate folds.

Showering: Scadian Style

bucket

Showers are one of the lovely modern inventions the Society for Creative Anachronisms incorporates into medieval camping events. Roman bathhouses supplied soap and towels, but SCA showers do not.

So the members of the Society have come up with ways to make our bathing kits look period. I found a nice wooden bucket at a yard sale, and I keep my bath supplies in it for events. Baskets from thrift stores also work well. If you are concerned about displaying modern containers, a washcloth tucked over the mundane items can maintain the medieval image.

Some Society members prefer to grab their bathing supplies and throw a towel over their shoulder, but many would prefer not to put on and take off several layers of clothing.  A compromise has given rise to the bathing chiton, an interpretation of early Greek garments made from bath sheets. This is my bathing chiton, and I have pulled the front open to show that there are actual arm holes concealed behind the towel drape.

 

In my post about Forms of Greek Dress, I discuss how the dorian chiton is made from two pieces of fabric buttoned or sewn together. A Bathing Chiton is sewn at the shoulders and sides, with an extra bit of fabric over the chest. In the diagram below, the left image shows where you sew the seams, and the right image shows the location of the seams when you wear the garment.ShowerC

I have not yet seen a man wearing a Bathing Peplos, but the concept is the same.

ShowerP

Forms of Greek Dress

Fotothek_df_tg_0003893_Architektur_^_Säule_^_Ordnung.jpgI have a degree in Architecture, and when I was a student I hoped to work as a historical or restoration architect. I ended up in the publishing industry, and the graphic design and drafting skills I learned are mostly applied to heraldic art and the design and creation of clothing and armor. I found a series of images showing how to pin and drape various forms of Greek dress, and I was surprised at how the Doric and Ionic chitons corresponded to their column capitols.

I made mnemonic devices to help me remember the three types of column capitols:

The Doric Order is simple and square, and I like to think of it as the Dumpy Order.

The Ionic Order looks like a scroll, and is often used in libraries and universities. My favorite history teacher liked to say, “It’s ironic that they didn’t know Ionic,” and knowledge is full of irony.

Tops

The Corinthian Order is the fanciest, and it looks like carved leaves springing from the top of the column. Since the Corinthian’s detail is often used in state and country Capitol buildings. In America, the founding fathers like to carve Corinthian leaves in the shape of corn and tobacco, because these plants are native to North and South America.

This image is from a Vignola illustration published in 1640.  I cropped this version to highlight the differences in the column capitols.

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Now to address the point of this post: Greek Dress for men and women. Much like the simplicity of the Doric Order, the Dorian Chiton (pronounced KIE-tin) is constructed from two folded cloth rectangles, and is held together with two pins and a cord around the waist. This is comfortable to wear in the heat of Pennsic.

 

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The Ionian Chiton is fancier than its Doric counterpart. Because it does not require a folded over front flap, the Ionian requires less fabric than the Doric.

This chiton is also comfortable to wear at Pennsic.  I prefer buttons and small loops of fabric instead of buttonholes, both for the look of the garment and because buttonholes are annoying to make.

In contrast, men wore the Peplos (left) and the Himation (right). The peplos can be worn instead of the chiton, and is belted at the waist. The himation can be worn over the the peplos or chiton. It can be made of a heavier material, and pulled over the head to form a hood in bad weather.

 

 

If you are interested in sewing a chiton or peplos, I have instructions in my post discussing how to turn bath sheets into Greek-inspired garments. Showering: Scadian Style

Promoting my Preferred Pronouns

Ten years ago, I had never heard the word “transgender.”  Since then, transgendered people have become a focus of the media, often not in a good light. Once I became aware of this, I stepped forward as an ally, making sure to always address people by the pronouns they prefer and help in any other ways I can.

In the midst of this, I learned there was another category of people who were not transgender, but rejected cultural assumptions based on gender assignments. These people are Genderqueer, and if you’re interested in learning more about this, here is the Wikipedia article.

I am a genderqueer person. I prefer it if people address me with the singular ‘they’, as well as the pronouns ‘their’ and ‘them’. I have begun wearing a button explaining my pronouns. The singular ‘they’ can replace ‘she’ or ‘he’ in speech, such as “Is that their hood? Why would they make look like that?”

HoodWithin the confines of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, there is a heated debate about gender expression. The SCA is dedicated to creating living history before 1600 C.E. and most historical cultures only acknowledged two genders. But just as the SCA uses modern medical and cooking practices, we are also addressing how to incorporate non-binary genders into our Society.

My persona is a Viking Shield Maiden, a woman who wears mens’ clothes and fights alongside them. I chose to have a Viking persona for a number of reasons, and being  a female doing “male” activities was a large part of my persona choice. In order to display my pronouns, I created a square Skjoldehamn hood. My Badge and my Silver Wheel awards are embroidered on the front panel, and my pronouns are embroidered around the outer edge.

CatUp

In addition to having THEY – THEM – THEIRS embroidered around the edge, I also sewed a piece of velcro with a rare earth magnet to the underside of the shoulder. This allows my Heraldic Cat Plushie to stay on my shoulder when I walk around events.

 

CatDown

I was worried that sewing a strong magnet to my hood would cause trouble in the washing machine, so I only sewed a square of velcro to the hood. The matching piece of velcro has the magnet sewn in. I also opened a seam on the plushie and added a magnet to it.

CardPocket

Finally, I added a pocket to the front of the hood. I have a habit of chatting with people at events and forgetting my shoulder bag. With my SCA business cards in this pocket, this is much easier. I “hid” the pocket’s attaching seam behind the black embroidery of my Badge.

Making this hood was easy. Being recognized as a genderqueer person will be much harder, but it is a good first step.

In conclusion, I would like to discuss my choice of colors for this hood. I used bright silver thread for the Silver Wheel and my name and pronouns, black thread for my badge and name pronunciation, and dark gray thread for the seam treatment. The silver thread has high contrast against the blue fabric, and draws attention. The black thread has a lower contrast, and draws some attention. The dark gray thread has very little contrast to the blue, and almost disappears into the fabric.

High contrast colors draw the viewer’s attention. In order of importance, my hood is designed to showcase my Wheel and Pronouns, show my Badge, and have some detailing.

FinalHood

Beginning Sewing and Leather Working

Before I explain how to create clothing and accessories from fabric and leather, I will explain what tools are required for each craft. There are entire industries built around selling tools and supplies for sewing and working leather, but most beginners’ projects require nothing more than a good pattern, careful planning, and time.

Here is a comparison of the tools needed to begin sewing fabric verses what is needed to begin working with leather.

Sewing Fabric Working Leather
Tools: fabric, scissors, needle, thread, pins, iron, chalk, ruler, graph paper, pencil Tools: leather, utility knife, cutting mat, needle, thread or cord, leather punches, rubber or wooden mallet, masking tape, metal ruler, graph paper, felt tip pen
What not to buy: a sewing machine. Learn how fabric, seams, and an iron are used to shape and form projects. What not to buy: a starter kit. Many of the included tools will not be used. Punches, cutting tools, and cord will be enough for most projects.
Materials: scrap fabric is easy to obtain. Sheets from Goodwill make excellent fabric mockups, which are called ‘muslins’. Materials: scrap leather is harder to find and more expensive than fabric. Leather jackets from Goodwill and stripping leather couches on the side of the road are inexpensive options.
Mistakes: easily corrected, but fraying is an issue. Multiple seams are needed to prevent fraying. Mistakes: harder to correct, but fraying is never an issue. One seam per edge is usually enough.
Teachers: someone in the local SCA group will know how to sew, and can explain the basics. Teachers: there might be someone who can teach leather working in the SCA group. If not, ask for lessons on the FaceBook groups, and be prepared to drive to an event or someone’s house.

sewing

Here are my basic sewing tools. I also have an ironing board. If you don’t have the space for a board or cannot afford one, laying a clean towel on top of a table will give you a reasonable ironing surface. The iron is critical because it presses seams, making projects look professional.

 

lworking

In contrast, these are my basic leather working tools. I find the metal triangular ruler extremely helpful for working leather because it lets me align and cut right angles. Note that my cutting mat is grey. You may find blue or green mats in sewing stores, but these are intended for fabric cutting and should not be used with a leather punch or a utility knife.

Making a Heraldic Plushie

Winged Lioness Rampant
One of the silly things I’ve seen SCA members do is buy (or make) plushies of their Heraldry. Since my Heraldry is a silver winged cat, I doubt I’ll be able to buy an off-the-shelf plushie anytime soon.

After some thought, I realized I could just get a white cat plushie and find a similar bird or bat plushie to use for wings. Since Beanie Babies are small and made from similar materials, I was able to find a white cat and a swan on eBay cheaply. (When I posted about this on my FaceBook, someone mentioned the swan plushie is often given red sequins and presented to a new Pelican.)

A little work with a thread and needle, and I give you Argent, my Winged Lioness plushie. I also decided to make her a collar with my badge, since she should be identifiable as one of my possessions. Badges are the Heraldic equivalent of saying, “This is mine.”

 

Don’t Rush Sewing!

OopsCollar2.jpg

One danger of sewing is rushing to finish a project. This can lead to all sorts of mistakes, from forgetting to press your seams with an iron to stabbing yourself with a needle. (Many crafters believe that a project isn’t “yours” until you’ve bled on it. My project goals include not having to use my First Aid kit.)

I’m going on a road trip in a few days, and I wanted to bring some projects to work on en route. One of the things on my to-make list is a Norse tunic to wear when I’m volunteering at Heralds’ Point. Most of my garb is blue with silver accents, but because author Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds wear all white, many Scadian Heralds do as well.

I have learned that the easiest way to construct a Norse T-tunic is to cut out the torso pieces, lay them flat, and complete the neck opening while the entire project is flat.

OopsCollar1.jpg

In order to keep the fabric of the neck from fraying, I sew a rectangular piece of cloth that comes down to a point around the neck. All of my other projects have a contrasting color of fabric at the neck and cuffs, but this project is all about white fabric, blue train, and blue stitching in contrast to the white.

Because this tunic doesn’t have a contrasting collar, I didn’t  bother to stitch the under layer neatly before I added the trim. I didn’t notice how  irregular it was until after I’d finished stitching the trim. I considered removing all the stitching and redoing this properly.

I have chosen to keep the irregular neck. It is not only a useful reference point for my progression as a historical seamstress, but a way of showing newer sewers what not to do. The complexity of Scadian garments can be daunting to newcomers. I’m keeping this as a reminder that nobody becomes an expert without a few mistakes.